Betis recover some pride with a second leg Copa del Rey victory over Barcelona...
Despite taking a shock early two-goal lead through a Jorge Molina double, and Arzu later restoring their two-goal advantage after Lionel Messi had pulled a goal back, Betis could not overhaul the five-goal deficit from the first leg.
However, the Segunda leaders regained a huge measure of self respect and can now concentrate on gaining promotion back to the top flight, while Barcelona can continue to dream of a potential final against Real Madrid.
Before the match began, a section of Betis fans in the Estadio Benito Villamarín crowd unfurled a banner which read: ‘Yes we can’, suggesting that they believed their side could overturn the first leg deficit by winning 6-0.
That belief was strengthened when their side took a shook lead after just 70 seconds. The rusty looking Gabriel Milito gifted Betis a free-kick right on the edge of the box for a foul on Jonathan Pereira. Molina was on hand at the near post to flick Salva Sevilla’s drilled kick into the net to stun Barcelona.
Betis were in dreamland when, five minutes later, they made it 2-0. And it was that man Molinaagain who did the damage. The hulking 6’ 3” forward showed a great turn of pace to race onto Ezequiel’s exquisite slide-rule pass, and then demonstrated great striker’s instinct to prod the ball under Jose Manuel Pinto.
Barcelona were shell-shocked and amazingly almost conceded a third goal in the 15th minute. The opportunity came from a by now familiar avenue when Nacho clipped a fantastic pass down the line for Molina, who surged into the box and was just about to pull the trigger when Gerard Pique arrived to nick the ball away from him.
It was a crucial moment and from then on, Betis still attempted to ruffle their illustrious opponent’s feathers. However, Xavi began to get on the ball and slow the tempo in a way that suited his side.
New signing Ibrahim Afellay injected a bit of dynamism in the final third and had two long-range strikes well saved by Casto in the Betis goal in the 20th and 21st minutes.
The chance of a shock appeared to be extinguished when Messi accelerated away from Isidoro in a race to catch a Xavi through ball, before rifling a fine finish between Casto legs to half the deficit.
However, the hosts were not done yet and captain Arzu hooked home in the second minute of first half injury-time to rejuvenate the Verdiblancos hope going into the interval.
Messi had the chance to crush Betis’ fight back nine minutes after the restart when he was awarded a spot-kick after Isidoro’s hand appeared to block the little Argentinian’s placed effort.
Those present were to witness a very rare site indeed, however, as Messi stepped up and appeared to buckle while striking the ball, causing him to, rather amazingly, scoop his kick over the crossbar.
He almost made amends for his miss in the 58th minute with a dangerous inswing free-kick from out on the left, but he found no takers and the ball evaded everyone and flashed across the face of goal and out for a goalkick.
Then, in the 67th minute, Nacho almost sparked the tie back into life with a thunderous left-footed strike which crashed off Pinto’s left-hand post and out to safety. It was a very unlucky end to a fantastic move involving a Jonathan Pereira square ball and an intelligent Molina dummy.
From then on, Barcelona took the sting out of the game by retaining possession in midfield, while both sides made a series of substitution as the match wound down to what was by then an inevitable conclusion.
Barcelona can now look forward to a semi-final with Almeria, who they will face in the in the first leg of their tie a week today.